Arsenal failed to relieve pressure on under-pressure boss Arsene Wenger on Sunday as the Gunners went down 2-1 against Brighton & Hove Albion at the Amex.
Two first-half goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray, with goalkeeper Petr Cech at fault for both, put the hosts in control on the south coast before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled a goal back moments before the break.
The Gunners dominated much of the second period but could not find a way past Chris Hughton’s side, despite a series of chances.
Here, we rate the performances of those in an Arsenal shirt after their eighth defeat of 2018.
Petr Cech 2 – Came and spectacularly failed to punch away Brighton’s early corner, leaving Dunk an empty net to score the opener. If that wasn’t bad enough, the veteran let Murray’s header squirm agonisingly through his body. Those two errors overshadowed his excellent stop to prevent Anthony Knockaert. The Czech, unfortunately, looks like a spent force now after a series of blunders this term.
Calum Chambers 4 – Out of position and stuck on his heels as Murray headed in the second. Genuinely got forward well and chipped in with some decent crosses but defensively, struggled, especially against Jose Izquierdo. Taken off late on.
Shkodran Mustafi 4 – Endured a pretty torrid time of it up against the battering ram and experience of Murray. Shaky in possession too, didn’t inspire any confidence.
Laurent Koscielny 4 – The skipper can’t be accused of a lack of effort but communication with Mustafi and Cech woeful. Bullied by Brighton’s tactics to get the ball regularly into the box.
Sead Kolasinac 5 – Very fortunate not to receive a second yellow card for ugly collision with Ezequiel Schelotto. Could have easily been a straight red. Nacho Monreal’s presence hugely missed.
Granit Xhaka 4 – Displayed great poise to lay the ball on for Aubameyang to score but wasteful in possession otherwise and no cutting edge.
Jack Wilshere 4 – Below-par showing, struggled to get a real foot on the ball and produce any kind of rhythm. Frustrating like many others in a black shirt.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 4 – The Armenian offered very little from a creative standpoint and didn’t help Chambers with much defensive support. Hauled off with a few minutes left.
Mesut Ozil 5 – Head down all too quickly, throwing his gloves to the grass in disgust at the conceding of Brighton’s second. Body language was all wrong though he looked better on the ball in the second 45.
Alex Iwobi 3 – Touch and movement was off. It wasn’t his day but just a poor showing and Arsenal fans were happy to see Welbeck replace him.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 6 – Showed predatory instincts to flick the ball home and give Arsenal a lifeline with his goal. Always a willing runner in behind but regular service wasn’t there and Brighton defended well.
Hector Bellerin 4 – Put himself about with there being plenty of stoppage time for the Gunners to find an equaliser but couldn’t muster anything.
Danny Welbeck 4 – Largely non-existent and his contribution probably rivalled Iwobi’s entire showing.
Eddie Nketiah 5 – The homegrown teenager is one for the future but had little time to make an impact after coming on with ten minutes to go.
Hazard also revealed that of the trio it was his fellow country-man De Bruyne, rather than his former Chelsea team-mate, who got his vote for PFA Player of the Year.
“I think there are three (best players in the Premier League) – Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane,” Hazard told Sky Sports.
“I voted for Kevin De Bruyne. He is the best. I could have also voted for Salah because I played with him (at Chelsea) and he’s my friend but Salah is more a striker than a player.
“Kevin has got everything. He defends, crosses the ball, assists and scores goals in big games. For me, he is the best this season.”
Hazard insisted his friendship with De Bruyne would be put on hold for Sunday’s crunch Premier League clash with City at Etihad Stadium, with kick-off set for 20:00 UAE time.
No player within the big five European leagues has scored in more competitive club games than Mo Salah (26 games) this season. 🙌💥 pic.twitter.com/XFRgMsGnqR— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 3, 2018
“I’m happy to see Kevin before kick-off but for 90 minutes I’ll try to forget he’s my friend,” Hazard continued.
“I like to make jokes with my friends in the tunnel but as soon as the referee blows the whistle I’m focused on the game.
“After the game – win lose or draw – I will shake his hand and say ‘see you in March with the national team’.”
Despite Hazard’s ranking stats actually support Salah as this season’s standout player.
Salah has scored 24 goals with eight assists in the Premier League this term while De Bruyne has seven goals and 14 assists.
But Hazard is standing by his choice.
“Kevin’s fantastic,” Hazard said. “He’s clever on and off the pitch. He’s in full confidence as he’s playing in the best team in the Premier League this year.
“When he’s on the pitch with good players, he’s one of the best in the world. Every time he has the ball at his feet he can do something magic.
“He doesn’t score a lot of goals but he can create something with just one movement or pass. It’s simple, he’s a special player.”
The challenge for Chelsea today though is not just shutting down De Bruyne as he is only one of City’s multi-pronged attacking threats.
“City are a team,” continued Hazard, “not just one player. I can tell my team-mates to stop De Bruyne or (Sergio) Aguero but they have 11 players, they are not just two players.”
The Egypt international scored his 32nd goal of the season in a comfortable 2-0 win over struggling Newcastle and he tormented Jamaal Lascelles so much he could have had a penalty and got the Newcastle captain red-carded in the closing stages.
However, the driving run by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain created Salah’s goal while an incisive rapid passing movement, topped by a brilliantly threaded through-ball by Roberto Firmino, was the key to Sadio Mane scoring after the break.
That second goal, almost instinctive with the way the ball was pinged around, highlighted the argument being made by Klopp, who admits he did not have a goal target for Salah when he signed him from Roma in the summer.
“I had no numbers in my mind. We knew he was a very offensively-orientated midfield player. If you are that then you need goals from players like this,” he said after the Egyptian scored in his 26th competitive match, a return better than anyone in Europe’s top five leagues.
“I love the goals he scores, I love his assists. I really love this player, how he is doing so well and thank God he is still healthy and fit.
“But all the others have exactly the same importance. He knows he needs a pass: he cannot get a ball in midfield and then run forward to be free in the box it is not possible so it was a world-class situation from Ox.
“The pass from Roberto Firmino I would have a ligament injury in my ankle if I tried that. It was good teamwork in football and I love that the most.”
The contributions of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Firmino deserve a mention as does goalkeeper Loris Karius who had only two shots to save but the second, in first-half added time, was a superb tip over from Mohamed Diame.
It was a key moment and one Klopp felt the goalkeeper was now justifying the decision to make him first choice.
“I wouldn’t say we didn’t have no chance afterwards to win the game but if the ball goes in it changes the game for sure. It was like scoring to be honest,” he added.
“If he is not a good goalkeeper I would be the biggest idiot in world football if I lined him up.
“The start was not so good and then people make their assessment immediately.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 3, 2018
“For a goalkeeper timing is very important: the best thing is not to make a mistake in the first 50 games and then people think you are the best and you can then be responsible for three goals in a row and people will still think you are world class.”
Newcastle boss Rafael Benitez, warmly received by an Anfield crowd which still reveres him for his 2005 Champions League victory with the club, admits it is coming matches against their fellow strugglers which will determine their Premier League future.
“To come here (to Newcastle) to try to get points, it doesn’t matter which teams are coming up or who you face, you have to win games,” he said.
“Southampton will be dangerous, they are struggling but they are a very good team, Huddersfield are very dangerous, it doesn’t matter that you are home.
“It would be a massive achievement for everyone (to survive) because we are still a way from it.
“We need to just concentrate on every game.”
Provided by Press Association Sport